Edinburgh Monarchs director Mike Hunter revealed today that finance will not be an obstacle as the promoters begin to formulate their team plans for 2012, as they bid to snatch back the Premier League title surrendered so meekly to Glasgow Tigers this season.
Hunter has ideas about who he would like to sign, as well as what went wrong this year.
Monarchs finished 11th in the league, just three places off the bottom, and are determined to track a new-look team who will have the ability and determination to prevent them becoming also-rans again.
And while question marks have been raised over exactly how much cash Monarchs will be able to spend to beef up their team, Hunter told the Evening News: “I don’t think finance will dictate what kind of team we have for 2012. Obviously for arguments sake we couldn’t have Kevin Wolbert and Ryan Fisher in the team as we did two years ago.
“But what we will do is write down various seven-man line-ups that are possible, and pick the best one without reference to finance.
“It will not be a ‘cheapo’ team nor will it be a ‘blow your brains out’ side either, but it will be the best team we think it’s feasible to afford. If people think we won’t have Wolbert because he is too expensive, that’s wrong.
“If we think Wolbert is in the best team we can put together, then we’ll get the finance.”
Despite finishing in the lower reaches of the league, Monarchs are over the collective 42.05 points-building limit which governs all Premier League teams, mainly due to Wolbert, Andrew Tully and Craig Cook all increasing their personal race averages.
It requires Monarchs to shave a point and a half from their total and Hunter admits this is going to cause more than a few headaches.
He added: “We definitely need better reserve riders, this position needs to be stiffened up. That means we are going to have to lose points from the top five and that is going to prove very tricky, and it’s not going to prove easy to provide a more successful team next year.
“There is not a clear-cut way forward, but we want at least to be in the running in 2012, it’s difficult to suggest that we are desperate to win the league again, it took us 55 years to win our first one in 2003 and we still enjoyed ourselves before that happened. But we must be competitive next season and win more away meetings, and also be in contention to win some trophies.”
Hunter, looking back on Monarchs’ league campaign which ended last weekend, conceded: “It has been disappointing from everyone’s point of view. I don’t think it’s a fair measure of the quality of the team, but it’s a fair measure of what they managed to do, unfortunately. The team should have been better than they were.”
But was the Monarchs squad good enough to begin with? Hunter responded: “We were obviously lacking in the reserve berths, but I don’t accept all the criticism about the way the side was put together at the start of the season.
“You have to decide who you want in the team, and everybody who said we should have had better reserves, would have had to come up with a name from the top five who should have been left out. Nobody did.
“In hindsight Kalle Katajisto has been the big disappointment in our top five, but nobody would have left him out based on what he did in 2010.
“I don’t accept the team could have been built better, most people would have left out Andrew Tully or Matthew Wethers which would not have made things any better.”
Monarchs’ Achilles’ heel to a degree has been the weakness of their tail-end and Hunter revealed: “When we couldn’t persuade William Lawson to race, we also failed to land several other targets we had in mind, including Adam Roynon, Peter Juul and Charles Wright, and we had to go ahead with our top five on the assumption we’d get one of those targets at reserve and we didn’t.
“In the end we went for Jay Herne and Ashley Morris but both proved completely unsuccessful despite decent credentials.”
Monarchs captured their third league crown in eight years in 2010 and this year’s squad certainly wasn’t wholly dismantled, so what went wrong?
“We were forced to weaken the side because we were over the points limit,” added Hunter. “Just as we are again. Kalle has also gone backwards this season by around two points a match and that has been our biggest problem. When we won at Newport in April the reserves got one point between them yet we still scored 49 points, because our top five were on song at the same time.
“I don’t think there has been a single match where the top five have performed as they should. Somebody in our top five has always had an off night, it’s often been Kalle, sometimes it’s been Craig Cook who has been a terrible mixture this season, and the top five have been as big a problem as the reserves.”
Hunter concluded: “The team does need freshening up but Cook was brought in to do just that, and to an extent he did. At his best he was fantastic, at his worst he was very disappointing.
“The big successes this season have been Kevin Wolbert and also Andrew Tully who has been very good at home and has been a reasonable success.”
Monarchs have won league titles in 2008 and 2010. Could 2012 be the next in sequence? Their supporters will certainly hope so.